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Biographies Come to Life at 3rd Grade Wax Museum


Third-grade students at James H. Vernon School brought famous figures in history to life when they presented the 6th Annual Biography Wax Museum. After learning how to write a biography about a prominent figure of their choice, students took on their identity and presented the wax museum to their parents and family members as a culminating event to an English language arts unit on narrative non-fiction.

Students, dressed as former president Theodore Roosevelt, Apple inventor Steve Jobs, tennis star Serena Williams or singer/musician Lady Gaga, to name a few, stood behind their desks with scripts in hand as visitors circulated the classrooms.  When visitors pushed the red “start’ button next to each wax figure, the figures were prompted to orate a brief biological speech.

According to third-grade teacher Ms. Kristine Friedman, the wax museum was part of a narrative nonfiction unit.

“Students learned to research a variety of subjects using chapter and picture books within our classrooms.  They also learned, via Teacher's College mini lessons, the different ways you can take notes and analyze narrative nonfiction texts,” she said.  “They learned that while biographies are nonfiction, they can be read in a similar way to fiction texts by looking at the subject as a main character who encounters problems, has goals and tries to overcome their problems/struggles to reach their goals.”

The students learned to take notes using timelines, the boxes and bullets method, in which the main idea is put in a box and supporting details are bulleted, and by using graphic organizers. They were also exposed to websites such as Kids Info Bits, Britannica and Brain Pop through class link as online resources to find information. 

Over the course of a month, each student completed at home a mobile with hangers, streamers and construction paper that featured pictures and facts about their chosen figure, which hung from the ceiling above their desks. They also developed their speeches and planned their costumes at home. Some new figures that students portrayed this year were Grace Hopper, a famous female computer coder, who was introduced to students through a reading assignment; Stan Lee, an American comic book writer; and Ralph Baer, who invented the first video game console as well all the electronic game, SIMON.

“Our 6th annual wax museum was a great success, thanks to the efforts of our third-grade teachers Ms. Nancy Flatley, Ms. Brittany Ford, Ms. Kristine Friedman, Ms. Jillian Duval and Ms. Erin Sterbens, and Ms. Megan Rogus,” said Principal Dr. Valerie Vacchio. “Our students did a marvelous job of researching their chosen historical figure, developing their speeches, creating their costumes and presenting their biographies to families and friends in a fun and interactive way.”